by Barry Tebb

It brings to mind Swift leaving a fortune to Dublin

‘For the founding of a lunatic asylum; no place needs it more’.

The breathing beauty of the moors and cheap accommodation

Drew me but the total barbarity of the town stopped me from

Writing a single line: from the hideous facade of its railway

Station; Betjeman must have been drunk or mad to praise it -

To that lump of stone on Castle Hill; her savage spirit broods.

I remember trying to teach there, at Bradley, where the head

Was some kind of ex-P.T. teacher, who thought poetry something

You did to children and his workaholic jackass deputy, obsessed

With practical science and lesson preparation and team teaching

And everything on, above and beneath the earth except ‘The Education

Of the Poetic Spirit’ and without that and as an example of what

Pound meant about how a country treats its poets "is a measure

Of its civilisation". I once had a holiday job in a mill and the

Nightwatchman’s killer alsatian had more civilisation than

Huddersfield’s Deputy Direction of Education.

For a while I was granted temporary asylum at Royds Hall -

At least some of the staff there had socialism if not art -

But soon it was spoilt for everyone when Jenks came to head

English, sweating for his OU degree and making us all suffer,

The kids hating his sarcasm and the staff his vaulting ambition

And I was the only one not afraid of him. His Achilles’ heel was

Culture; he was a yob through and through; and the Head said to me

"I’ve had enough of him throwing his weight around, if it comes

To a showdown I’ll back you against him any day" but he got

The degree and the job and the dollars; my old T.C. took him

But that was typical, after Roy Rich went came a fat appointee

Who had written nothing and knew nothing but knew everyone on

The appointing committee.

Everyday I was in Huddersfield I thought I was in hell and

Sartre was right and so was Jonson; "Hell’s a grammar school

To this"; too (Peter Porter I salute you!) and always I dreamed

Of Leeds and my beautiful gifted ten-year olds and Sheila, my

Genius-child-poet and a head who left me alone to teach poetry

And painting day in, day out and Dave Clark and Diane and I,

In the staffroom discussing phenomenology and daseinanalysis

Applied to Dewey’s theory of education and the essence of the

Forms in Plato and Plotinus and plaiting a rose in Sheila’s

Hair and Johns, the civilised HMI, asking for a copy of my poems

And Horovitz putting me in ‘Children of Albion’ and ‘The

Statesman’ giving me good reviews.

Decades later, in Byram Arcade, I am staring at the facade of

‘The Poetry Business’ and its proprietors sitting on the steps

Outside, trying to look civilised and their letter, "Your poetry

Is good but its not our kind" and I wondered what their kind was

And besides they’re not my kind of editor and I’m back in Leeds

With a letter from Seamus Heaney; thank you, Nobel Laureate, for

Liking ‘My Perfect Rose’ and yes, you’re right about my wanting

To get those New Generation Poets into my classroom at Wyther

Park and show them a thing or two and a phone call from

Horovitz who is my kind of editor still, after thirty years,

His mellifluous voice with its blend of an Oxford accent and

American High Camp, so warm and full of knowledge and above all

PASSIONATE ABOUT POETRY and I remember someone saying,

"If Oxford is the soul of England, Huddersfield is its arsehole".

Last updated May 02, 2015